To Washington Capitals fans, Joel Ward is a hero. To certain ignorant hockey fans, he's nothing more than a derogatory word reserved for racists.
When Game 7 of the opening-round series between the Capitals and the Boston Bruins went to overtime, it reached a climax of intensity as an entire season hung on one goal.
After Ward put in the winning score, a number of classless, disgusting, primitive users on Twitter cowardly vocalized their apparent disgust with the result, namely using racial slurs reflecting Ward's dark skin color.
This is unfortunately not the first instance of a dark-skinned hockey player being the target of possible race-related taunting this season.
Simmonds said of the incident, "I don't know if it had anything to do with the fact I'm black. I certainly hope not. When you're black, you kind of expect (racist) things. You learn to deal with it."
He continued, "I guess it's something I obviously have to deal with, being a black player playing a predominantly white sport...I'm not going to dwell on that."
Ward reacted similarly to the collection of verbal attacks on him, saying "It has no effect on me whatsoever."
Conduct an Internet search for the actual comments if you'd like, but they are better off ignored.
The logic behind these comments is baffling.
Think about this situation: If two white women go to a beach and one gets a darker tan, does that suddenly make her friend a better person because her friend's skin is lighter?
No, it means her skin is a different color, that's it.
That's all it should ever mean.
None of the racists who gained their 15 seconds of embarrassing fame will ever score an overtime goal in Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Playoffs series.
Ward not only did that, but proved himself to be a more respectable person than any of them seem to be capable of.
Simmonds and Ward handled their ridiculous situations with class and should be commended by NHL fans everywhere for carrying themselves in an exemplary manner on and off the ice, regardless of what their skin color is.
Jason Sapunka covers the NHL and Philadelphia Flyers. He is available on Twitter for updates, commentary and analysis.
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